BillyRadd Music

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Birthday Kalimba

I found a large wooden button at a craft store, drilled a few more holes in it, and glued it on to cover for a very effective sound hole.

The kalimba kit came with a Padron cigar box, the kalimba hardware and instructions. But, I thought it should be electrified so I added a piezo pickup and guitar cord jack.

My wife, Anita Gayle has always asked our three daughters to make her something for her birthday instead of buying a gift because she really doesn’t need anything, and even a hand-written note or poem celebrating her birthday means so much more to her than anything else they might buy. And, although she has always been very gracious to accept any gift with a smile and expressions of thanks to whom ever gives it, I know that hand-made things mean a lot more to her because she knows what it is to create something versus purchasing it.

So, this year I decided to make her a birthday present myself. And, I’m glad I did because I think she really liked it and was touched that I would spend the time to make something just for her.

The cigar box kalimba, a cool kit I purchased from C.B. Gitty Crafters Supply, turned out to be the perfect gift for someone who appreciates a good thumb piano, as they are also known. Since I have used some parts C.B. Gitty makes at their plant in Vermont to build film can canjos (that I call Kodakasters), I ordered the kit online with confidence that it would, first, be made of quality parts, and second, something I could probably put together even with my relative inexperience in making anything musical.

I suppose that it took me about two hours all told, and I have to admit, it does make pretty musical tones.  The hardest part was tuning it to the key of C major after it was assembled, but luckily the Gitty kit also included instructions complete with a simple tuning tutorial. I already own a couple of electronic guitar tuners which made my tuning task even easier. About halfway through the process I realized that recycling old cigar boxes is probably the best thing about cigars.

The only real glitch in my birthday kalimba project was when I left the printed instructions in my pants pocket and they went through the wash, which resulted in a tomato-sized lump of useless soggy paper.

But no worries. I emailed C.B. Gitty about my predicament and they emailed me a link to a PDF of the entire instruction booklet within an hour of my asking for help. 

Hey! Gotta love those guys!

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